Ilana Sandberg’s campers at Camp Ramah in Northern California should expect a summer full of song. Ilana is musically talented, and music is a major way in which she shares her love for Jewish life and learning.
A junior in the Double Degree Program between Barnard College and The Jewish Theological Seminary, Ilana is the musical director of Pizmon, the Jewish a cappella group of Barnard, JTS, and Columbia
“Davening (prayer) and music are a big part of the way I connect Jewishly,” Ilana says.
The fact that five members of Pizmon are also Ramah staff members has had a major effect on how the group interacts with members of Jewish communities they visit, especially for Shabbatonim.
“When we visit communities we do Ramah-style activities. We don’t just perform. We lead services and workshops and share the musical nature of Shabbat we are used to from Ramah,” Ilana explains.
Ilana, 21, became involved with Ramah after participating in USY Pilgrimage during the summer before her senior year of high school in Boston, and then later in the Conservative movement’s Nativ gap-year program in Israel.
“I grew up going to a Jewish camp in New Hampshire that wasn’t a Ramah camp, but I always wanted to be a Ramahnik. Both my parents had gone to Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, and I had seen the lifelong positive impact it had had on them,” Ilana shares.
After Nativ, Ilana worked three summers at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack as a counselor for children ages five to seven. She points to Nativ as the turning point at which she decided to become a professional informal Jewish educator as a way of passing on her love of observant, egalitarian Judaism to future generations.
“I learn and teach better outside the classroom. I believe you can make a greater impact through informal educational experiences. As an informal educator you aren’t just reciting facts. You’re teaching a way of living and serving as a Jewish role model,” Ilana says.
Even now, she gets to bring Ramah’s brand of informal Jewish educational programming to synagogues on Manhattan’s West Side as a Ramah Service Corps fellow.
“Ramah Service Corps is literally a dream job. I get to add camp into my weekly schedule throughout the year. Summer is the most opportune time for Jewish communities and experiences to thrive, and now I get to build that constantly,” she remarks.
Ilana has traveled around the country and world sharing her combined passion for informal Jewish education and music. She’s looking forward to her stop next summer in Monterey, where she’ll bring a songful enthusiasm to her work with campers and fellow staff members.